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Light Exhibition

Exhibitions

Emma & Edvard: Love in the Time of Loneliness

27 January to 17 April, 2017

The Munch Museum, Oslo

On January 27, 2017, the exhibition Emma & Edvard: Love in the Time of Loneliness opened in the Munch Museum in Oslo. This exhibition, which I had been invited to curate, integrates a selection of paintings, some graphic works, and a sculpture by Edvard Munch (1863-1944) with our videos of Madame B. 


If I chose a photo of myself in the exhibition (on the right of this page), it is because I still feel both enchanted and astonished by the combination. A triple concept underlies the exhibition, which emerged from my immediate reaction when the invitation came. First, to make sense of the combination of the paintings by Norway’s greatest artist and our own work with moving images, I considered the moving qualities of Munch’s technically still paintings. Second, I needed two intertwined mediations. Flaubert - rather than just our videos - and Munch; the cinematic in the work of both the pre-cinema writer and the artist who did know the (early) cinema. Third, the theme of loneliness, so obviously important in the work of both artists, and foregrounded in our videos, needed to be connected with the aesthetic theme of the cinematic.

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photo: Ove Kvavik, Munch Museum

I also felt the need to establish equality between the art forms by advocating (implicitly, by means of providing seating) durational looking. This is, so to speak, the aesthetic quality of the visitor. Most paintings and video screens are hung low, so low that people immediately commented on it. The benches in front of the paintings allow a longer experience of the paintings on eye level. This encourages visitors to look longer than is usual, while being comfortable, a duration that is conducive to meditative looking. Instead of passing by, walking by the paintings as if they were wallpaper, and feeling one’s legs hurt after a relatively short time so that the final parts of an exhibition get the short shrift, now everyone can sit down, choose which works most appeal to visual contemplation, and thus have an experience of art mostly unheard of. The chilling figurations of loneliness in the photograph above show the material set-up. They also demonstrate the theme of the exhibition, the loneliness that is especially stark in this fourth room. After the cinematic, loneliness was the second idea that came to my mind.

The Wedding of the Bohemian, 1925-26. photo: Munch Museum

This is most impressively figured in the poster-picture of the exhibition (above). Here, with the empathy the isolated “bride” solicits from the viewer, Munch clearly complicates the reputation of misogyny so frequently attributed to the artist. This is the connection between Flaubert, Munch and our Madame B on the emotional, affective, and thematic level. Thematic exhibitions can be monotonous if they don’t harbor an aesthetic counterpart. This was, for me, the “sideways look” that produces loneliness, a lack of visual engagement and openness to dialogue. And this receives a counterpart if we consider that in the cinema, as different from the gallery, spectators sit looking straight ahead, without visually engaging others, even if the theater is crowded.

Photo: Ove Kvavik, Munch Museum

Video Tour

Below is a 10-minutes video tour of the exhibition. Although, of course, it cannot approximate the experience of the reality, it gives a first impression and will hopefully entice people to go to Oslo and see the show. The video literally takes you through the exhibition room by room, with the titles of the rooms visible. This is meant to give you a sense of how the itinerary follows the life phases of my fictional characters Emma and Edvard, each room having the walls painted in a darker grey.

Publication

A substantial book (275 pages) accompanies the exhibition in which I analyse most of the works included in it in terms of loneliness and the cinematic, and the sideways look that binds the two. Not a catalogue, the book holds theoretical discussions of many aspects of the exhibition, analyses of passages from Flaubert’s novel and compares some of Munch’s paintings with other paintings, from Leonardo Da Vinci, Caravaggio, and Rembrandt van Rijn to Marlene Dumas. This book can be acquired at the Munch Museum and in art-oriented bookstores. It is distributed by Yale University Press.

Setting up

This exhibition was particularly challenging to set up. Some 90 artworks that are vulnerable and need protection for security as well as for climate conditions; and the 19 screens video work, with its technological requirements. Videos emanating light, painting and especially graphic works having restrictions for light, while visitors must have the best visual access: lighting was an adventure in itself. With this short video we wish to pay homage to all the installers, both the crew from Warsaw, EIDOTECH, directed by Radek Pater; and the crew from the munch Museum. Everyone was totally dedicated, professional, perfectionist… and the result shows!

Opening Events

The opening of the exhibition, on January 26 (for Friends of the Museum) and 27 (general opening) was a very special event. Underscoring the self-reflexive quality of the exhibited art, the main actors of the videos came and performed in the lecture hall, interrupting my opening speech, and in the galeries.

below:
photos of performances at opening by Rena Li, Munch Museum

And on the right a short video “Re-Performing” of these events.

 

Responses

The exhibition is well visited, way beyond the expected vistors numbers. Queen Sonja of Norway and Queen Margrethe of Denmark visited the exhibition on March 6th.
The exhibition has solicited unusual responses. Not only were there many reviews, but the very first one was so brilliant that someone from the audience translated it for me. On this follow-up page a selection of the first responses give a sense of the range of these reactions:
 

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Critics

For those who read Norwegian, here is the full press dossier. One extremely negative, the others all very positive, one (below) a model of understanding and clarity. Press dossier Emma and Edvard

The first review, written by the best-known art critic of Norway in the largest newspaper, Aftenposten, was an enormous surprise and totally satisfying. Here is the original
The English translation of his review:


The best Munch exhibition I have ever seen!
By Kjetil Røed, Aftenposten


The Munch Museum’s exhibitions have long been a seemingly perpetual list of male counterparts. Now it’s the ladies’ turn.


Munch is Munch, you may be thinking. But, no, it needs not be so. Mieke Bal, who is both the artist and curator of this exhibition, uses Munch’s works to reflect on the disparity between fantasy and reality that most people suffer. The result is the most interesting Munch exhibition I have seen.

 

Rose Red dreams
Along with Munch we meet artist Michelle Williams Gamaker and Mieke Bal’s Madame B, an adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary (1857). The work is divided into several parts and is scattered around the exhibition.
Here we meet a woman with rosy dreams of love, who is hugely disappointed when she experiences the reality of marriage. Neither lovers nor shopping help her get past the dream images that define her. She sees neither herself nor others. It ends with loneliness and isolation, death and destruction.
The story of Madame B examines what happens when you become captive of your dreams and lose touch with reality and what it requires of you.

Double insulation
Bovary’s loneliness is reflected in Munch, especially in the work The Wedding of the Bohemian (1929), where we see a woman deeply unhappy at her own wedding. So did Bovary. The grim, male, guests hardly even recognize her existence. In Munch’s art people also fail to see each other, they are more concerned about themselves and their social masks. If we can find a loving fellowship in Munch’s art, it is often something off about it, like the embrace that melts the two lovers faces into to an anonymous patch in The Kiss (1897).

Male fantasy
As a rebuttal to Bovary’s self-deception, many Munch works are masculine fantasies about the woman. The woman is seen either as an unattainable ideal, like Madonna (1894), or a threat, as the redhead in Nude with long hair (1902) - where the painter has aggressively scratched up the model’s painted body.
Both Emma and Edward are captured by dream images. But in this exhibition the fantasies are set in conjunction with each other in the gallery space.

Filmic perspectives
The works are actually in such concrete dialogue that the people in them look at each other across the room. The works are alive, talking together, now. This violates a logic where the work’s frames are marking the boundaries of what is happening in it. Bal wants us to think “cinematically”: what we see in the framework is only a fragment of a far more comprehensive narrative. We, the viewers, must unravel the threads of what falls outside the picture.
Edward and Emma is an exhibition where the main story takes place in the minds of whoever is experiencing it - as demonstrated by the exhibition’s last “work”: a mirror.

Dream up the continuation
The mirror is connected with the missing link between the people in the images and the fantasies they are caught in, and at the same time as we are placed in the middle of the dialogue between the works.
Because we go around with fantasies that deviate from the reality we find ourselves in. Perhaps one dreams about becoming a successful crime writer or star chef? Or maybe some days on a sunny island beckons? A new partner? Are we trapped by dreams - or not?
The exhibition is a platform to think about our own self-deception and the inability to see reality - and other people - directly.

Mind Tools
There are not only works of art that opens our minds to greater progress and more practical application. Literature and art are presented across more conventional ways to frame art and literature - which helps make this one of the most interesting exhibitions I’ve seen in a long time.
“Edward and Emma” also feels liberatingly less about Munch or his “greatness”. Bal uses, almost as a matter of course, art as a tool for thinking through common general human issues. That’s a good idea if the goal is to grasp what the value of art is.

In short: It’s what we need art for.

By Kjetil Røed, Aftenposten, 27 (online) and 29 (paper) January 2017

In the academic journal Nordisk Museologi 2017, 1: 152-57 Thea Arabakke published an extensive review of the exhibition. For a PDF of the review, see reviewarabakke.pdf
I made a rough translation into English:

How to exhibit a novel? And can an exhibition of Munch’s paintings together with living
pictures give us a new perception of his work? With video installation and painting in
interaction, the Munch Museum invites us to a new presentation of Gustave Flaubert’s classic Madame Bovary and Edvard Munch’s works.
The last couple of years has the Munch Museum in Oslo had a great audience success with the + Munch series, where Munch’s work has been exhibited together with respectively Bjarne Melgaard, Vincent van Gogh, Gustav Vigeland, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jasper Johns and Asger Jorn’s works. This year they are another step in their exhibition concept. In Emma & Edvard - love in the time of loneliness it is the story of loneliness that is unfolded for the audience, through the characters Emma and Edvard presented in video installations and paintings.
Unlike a recent masculine art meeting, the female character now introduced is Emma, presented through Mieke Bal’s and Michelle Williams Gamaker’s videos. The Dutch cultural theorist and artist Bal is also the curator for the exhibition, Ute Falck from The Munch Museum is co-curator.
Iforlengelseav + Munch serienkanmanspørre tell us why this exhibition has gotten the name Mieke + Munch, since Bal is both a curator
and participate in own works.


+ Munch Series
had a comparative showdown with focus on technique, shape, motives and sometimes biographical life, as back in 2015 there were two chronological
timelines made to compare van Gogh and Munch’s artistic expression, their conflicting lives and how Paris became a turning point for both of them. But if neither a historical time picture of Munch’s life nor his development as an artist to be believed, who are Emma and Edvard?
Emma is the protagonist of the video installation that appears in the exhibition. It is based on a movie by Bal and Gamaker from 2013, Madame B, which is an interpretation of Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary from 1857.

 

During the curator’s event in connection with the opening ceremony of the exhibition Bal said that Edvard is a character in Munch’s paintings and pictures should not be confused with the artist
self. Bal uses the story of Emma and Edvard as a means of seeing Munch’s paintings and maybe even Munch in new ways. Through topics like turmoil, loneliness, desperation and imagination the exhibition wishes to make the audience reflect on the interaction between the works. This is on the museum’s website.

 

The reflection can also be transferred to your own
life - if we allow it. REMEDIATING, LITERATURE AS A FILM
AND PAINTING AS PHOTOGRAPHY
Eight video installations and seventy five of Munch’s paintings, lithographs and woodcut fill the entire Munch Museum exhibition areas spread over seven rooms. The walls have a light gray color and the rooms
is divided into seven themes, respectively, “Cinematic
means and loneliness’; “Fostering and formation”;
“Fantasies”, “Solitude”; “Resurrection”; “In the depths”
and “End”.


Tematil <: in the first room invites visitors to look at Munch’s paintings unlike photographs, such as still images and thus events caught in moments that really are in motion and on the way out of the image area. Here is there are no video installations and for visitors;
the room can act as an introduction on how to see Munch’s paintings with the live image, which introduced the exhibition in the other rooms.
The movie Madame B is a remediation of Flaubert’s novel, where the story of Emma and her fate is told through moving pictures instead of text. Remediation shows to the logic of new media where older practices will be presented in a new format. It involves not just new technological practices, but is a transformation of existing media


(Bolter & Grusin 1999). By placing Munch’s paintings along with the video installations, the show outlines the photographic and cinematic potential in Munch’s work and get visitors practiced in a distinctive method that is to read exhibitions like narrative and film (Figure 1). In Munch’s choice of perspective, she recognizes the photographic. The section where the characters in the subject are cut to the waist looks like snapshots rather than portraits. It is as if the people are in motion, and soon out of the picture after Munch has frozen one moment at Karl Johan, on a brothel or in a wedding. In “Exhibition as film” (2007) Bal argues for the visitors and the works raised in a western capitalist society living with the expectation of having constant sense of happiness which one tries to maintain by buying stuff. The purchase is short-lived and leads to a bigger spending where you spend money beyond your means and ending in debt. Flaubert wrote the novel as a comment to the society of his day,
while Bal and Gamaker have chosen to place the story about Emma in our own time. Madame B has been transformed from a costume drama from the 19th century to make Flaubert’s playful of the time capitalist alienation relevant today.


In the video installations, we see Emma’s tragic fate as a result of unrealistic expectations for the life she has chosen, and of the longing after the experience of love. In order not to feel loneliness she begins sexual relations outside marriage and develops a large material consumption. Emma’s men she begins affairs with are being played by the same actor, who also has the role of her husband, Charles.


This is a cinematic conception that the book cannot do but points to Bal and Gamaker’s interpretation of Emma’s choice: it’s not love for the men that drives Emma into adultery, but her longing and the search for love. This also shows us a concise example of how remediation gives new playroom in the transfer from one medium to another.

A NEW INTERPRETATION ROOM
The story about Emma in the video installations gives Munch’s workers a new context. The curator has chosen the paintings for key themes in the video installations. It also makes directly comparable connections between the image motifs and the scenes. The assembly of the exhibition is made so that more of the works speak to each other, for example, Emma’s wedding scene and the painting of The wedding of the Bohemian (Figure 3) placed on opposite walls in the same room.


The exhibition flier with a short introductory text to each room and its theme is absolutely necessary to understand what video installations and the paintings can tell us. This is for borrowing at the museum and the directions needed in the exhibition. Thus it can be sparse with explanatory text on walls. Bal wants the audience to be active observers, take part in the story and thus become co-authors. The effect is that this binds together
the different impressions and experiences we are confronted with in the various installations.


The connection between the works comes through the story of Emma and Edvard, a connection that we as a visitor activate and create (Bal 2007: 75). In every room benches are placed in front of Munch’s paintings, where you can sit down and watch them. The sound from the video installations are heard while we study the paintings, and by assembling many of the works on the wall they invite us to the benches, giving us the opportunity to devote time to each section. Sitting on the bench I can consider both painting and movies and so on, see new things in Munch’s motifs I have not seen before. The video sequence from Emma’s wedding fits with Munch’s Bohemian wedding. They stand up against each other and thereby invite new interpretations of a known work.


Emma’s despair in the wedding scene is projected to the bride in the center of the motif of Bohemian wedding.


In the exhibition’s Title is easy to associate the character Edvard to Edvard Munch and with those familiar with the novel behind the video installation we get to know Emma and her life. But how can the audience know Edvard?


In Emma & Edvard it is not clearly Edvard Munch’s personage. This unclarity is also a part of making this exhibition interesting. As a curator, Bal has selected more of Munch’s self-portraits, but in the exhibition these should represent a character in Munch’s work. The way this is handled suggests that all representation is an interpretation and
manufacture, whether it is Munch’s own self-portrait or Bals’ curation of his work. In her curator’s speech Bal stated that she wants to save Munch from his own biography and that we must put away what we know about Munch’s own life before we enter the exhibition. I perceive Mieke Bal as uninterested in the artist behind the work, but rather that she encourages us to get to know the artist through the work.


Flaubert is said to have stated that the character Emma was based on himself and therefore, through the nuances in the video installation we are not only familiar with the novel Madame Bovary, but also with Flaubert.

FLAUBERT + MUNCH
As another proposal, the exhibition could be seen as an extension of the thematic exhibitions of previous years, which would then get the name Flaubert + Munch.


Ball leads painter and author together in a common theme tag about loneliness, media usage, and how the works are in relation to each other, talking together. We see clear and subtle conversations between Emma and Edvard, which opens up new questions we can ask to Munch’s motives and as human beings, but also to Emma.


The film Madame B reintroduces the novel Madame Bovary, or Emma, ??in modern costumes and gives the classic novel from the middle of the 19th century timelines for a new audience. For those who have more interest after that the exhibition visit is over, they can find the novel as part of the museum shop’s range.


The exhibition has largely been well received by critics in Norwegian newspapers. Aftenposten’s reviewer described it as the Munch Museum’s best exhibition to date, and Lars Elton from Dagsavisen praised the exhibition theme for its unpleasant topicality (Bahr 2017, Elton 2017). The critics seem to agree that the visual exhibition design and presentation of Munch’s works and Bals video installations is successful.


By integrating Munch’s pictures, they meet the living image Bal has been able to see his paintings in a new way, as the audience is also given the opportunity to discover. But not all the reviewers have been similarly excited about Bals vision of Munch’s work. Morgenbladet reviewer Oda Bahr criticizes Bal for her interpretation of Munch as blowing up his soulful expression of melancholy, passion and longing as confused or united to the common denomination loneliness (Røed 2017). But Bal insists that Edvard is a character in Munch’s work and thus relieves the historical context that Bahr calls for.

 

Edvard is not Munch himself, but a character Bal believes she finds in his work and the self it helps to create. Her dual role as both artist and curator exceeds a traditional curator role and she plays with the distinction between imagination and reality.

 

The exhibition works well on several levels and there are many themes that can be analyzed to provide a fuller picture of its scope. Bals interdisciplinary approach and her narrative production on exhibition as a film, gives the audience a basis for even experiencing the story which plays on canvas and screens, between painting and video. The theme of the exhibition and the interpretation of Flaubert’s novel are actualized and make the audience participate in the exhibition’s story as we move forward in Emma’s and Edvard’s history, room after room. The exhibition
gives inconvenient answers, but it opens to great existential questions and abilities while presenting both a historical novel and Edvard Munch’s work in a new context. Bal is coping with showing a little explored potential in her curation of Munch’s paintings. Emma & Edvard – Love in the time of loneliness challenges the traditional perception of how literature and biographical life can be exhibited.

LITERATURE
Bahr, Oda 2017. “Love in the time of boredom: ‘ Morgenbladet, February 2, 2017.
Bal, Mieke 2007. “Exhibition as film.” Sharon Macdonald & Paul Ed (ed.). Exhibition
Experiments. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 71-93.
Bolter, Jay David, & Richard Grusin 1999. Remediation. Understanding New Media.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Elton, Lars 2017. “Love and loneliness in modern time. “Dagsavisen, January 31, 2017.
Illouz, Eva 2007. Cold Intimacies. The Making of Emotional Capitalism. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Røed, Kjetil 2017. “The best Munch exhibition I have seen! “Aftenposten, January 27, 2017.

Thea Aarabakke, MA, PhD fellow, Háskólinn í Sogn og Fjordane / IKOS,
University of Oslo
thea. Aarbakke @ ikos. uio. no

Professor Jakob Lothe published a fantastic review in Theatre Journal, Volume 69, Number 4, December 2017, pp. 594-596
The full review can be read here: reviewoslojakob.pdf

Documentation​

The set-up of the exhibition is a pseudo-chronology: not the lives of the artists but of the progress towards ever-increasing loneliness ending in death of the two figures, “Emma”, the creation of a recluse author who is rumored to have said: “Madame Bovary, c’est moi” and of “Edvard”, protagonist of the self-portraits and focalizer of the images of fantasy, imagining the attraction of women figures, in sometimes aggressive images, but also empathic with suffering girls and women. Both artists combined obsessions with certain topics - for Munch, the “femme fatale”, for example - with a relentlessly experimental attitude towards style that made them both unparalleled masters of modern art. Some critics have even considered Flaubert’s writing (proto-)postmodernist, and this for good reasons. And Munch, who never let go of figuration, nevertheless experimented with various modes of abstraction. For him, this was not the opposite of figuration but its rival or partner. To demonstrate this, I have juxtaposed two paintings of the Death of Marat topic, which demonstrates his anxieties in relationships with women, while the style of the two is so different, especially in their dialogue with abstraction, that it is impressive to see how radical he could be.

installation photos: Ove Kvavik, Munch Museum

The performances brought out an underlying feature of the exhibition. Re-enacting fragments of the stories presented in the videos, the actors underlined that the parallels between the artworks by Munch and the videos based on Flaubert’s writing are not appropriations by dialogic responses. The merging of fiction and reality when costumed actors walk among the audience proposes that these domains are not separate but also intertwined. Below is a short video of the performance, a photo gallery, and some photos of the exhibition brought to life by visitors.

photos of performances at the opening: Michelle Williams Gamaker and Elan Gamaker

We also recorded an interview with Professor Dorota Filipczak from Lodz, Poland, held in the exhibition. In the first of two parts of this interview, 20 minutes long, Dorota asks about the main concepts underlying the exhibition, such as immersion, the refusal of biographical criticism, and more. This has now been edited by Michelle and can be viewed below:

Last but most certainly not least, I want to thank wholeheartedly the Munch Museum curator Ute Kuhlemann Falck. Ute has accompanied me as the in-house co-curator from day one, and the collaboration has been a joy. With great expertise and creative insight, she was always capable of coming up with an instant solution to any problem that occurred. I will never forget her generosity and friendship. Here she is posing in front of her favorite print - one in a row of of three in the exhibition.

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Visitors

I was able to collect just a few comments from visitors. Many more remained oral comments I happened to hear when I was in the galleries.

On February 8, a Dutch visitor wrote the following comment: Olga M. Teunissen


Today I saw the exhibit, what a surprise! The concept of selecting 7 (8) central themes so dominating in the lives of Munch and Mme Bovary is impressive. It grabs you by the throat and one doesn’t have enough senses to explore it all. Tomorrow I like to visit again ;-) olgamaria”.


When I asked her if she was Dutch, as her name suggested, she wrote this:
“I have been several times at the Munch Museum, but this was the best exhibition ever. The beginning with two sets of screens one after another was already so fascinating that one is completely surprised. For me, Munch’s work received much more profound meaning due to the parallels.”


The next day, February 9, the same visitor wrote:


“I went again today and discovered more details. My experience is also ‘narrative’. At the end I stood still for a while, looking at my own mirror image.” About other visitors she wrote: “young visitors of the Barnehagen (pre-schoolers) and groups of high school students, who were very interested. Older people as well. You reach all ages with your exhibition.”

On February 14 Jeannette Christensen, an Oslo-based artist, wrote this after her visit:


I saw Emma + Edvard and I enjoyed it so much! I found it really transgressive, the way the videos and your choice of paintings spoke together, but also the sense of time. Then and now. So many paintings by Munch I have never seen before. The different ways the video was cut in different sequences worked very well with the selected paintings and also the variation of screens and ways of showing the videos. I think it all came together as a very well planned whole. Being able to sit and watch not only the videos but also the paintings, was so good. It really made me want to and also able to spend the needed time. I sat on the bench and studied Munch’s embrace and noticed for the first time the little figure down on the street in the corner of the painting under the curtain. What a thrill. It just made so much sense, the way you have thought out the low hanging and seating. I can’t remember ever seeing anything like this exhibition, that kind of dialogue, with a remediated literary figure, an author, a painter and his paintings, it all felt like meant to be! It was distressing to watch Emma and it did make me look at the relationships in Munch’s paintings differently. Now I need to spend time with your book. Enough for now, bed time!

On February 17 Jakob Lothe, a professor of English at the University of Oslo, wrote this comment in the News & Events section:
The successful execution of a brilliant idea, this exhibition is not just worth seeing, it is compulsive viewing. For me, there are three main reasons for this - reasons that are linked and blend into each other.

 

First, by juxtaposing Munch and Flaubert the way she does in this exhibition, Mieke Bal improves my understanding of both Munch’s visual art and Flaubert’s verbal art - not by making each of them less original but, conversely, by showing how, using different forms of artistic expression, both artists explore variants of human experience of loneliness in the modern era. The relevance, urgency and authenticity of these explorations strongly suggest that, in one important sense at least, this era is not yet over. Second, Bal’s dual focus on the visual and the verbal not only enables me to see how strongly visual Flaubert’s writing is in “Emma Bovary”, thus making me more appreciative of the thematic effects of verbal visualization. It also enables me to understand better how readable Munch’s painting is: seeing the exhibition, I “read” Munch’s paintings not least by responding to the elements of narrative of which they are possessed, and these narrative elements bear a significant relation to aspects of Flaubert’s verbal narrative. Third, when I write “Flaubert” here I actually refer to Bal’s video installations from “Madame B”. Looking at Munch, I am also looking at installations in which actors present, or perform, different phases of the lives of Emma and her husband Charles. The performativity of the act of looking is striking in several of the video scenes, and it is created not least by Bal’s innovative use of perspective and variants of temporal and spatial distance. As modulations of perspective and distance are constituent elements of Munch’s visual art and Flaubert’s verbal art also, Bal’s filmic art adds a third dimension to the presentation of loneliness while at the same time improving the viewer’s understanding of that of Munch and Flaubert. I strongly recommend this wonderful exhibition.

On March 30, Benoît Maire, a French artist, made the trip from Bordeaux to Oslo just to visit the exhibition. He wrote this about his experience:
I really do not regret having made the trip!


The exhibition is superb, and seeing the freedom you take regarding the hanging of what has become a great classic painter is a great pleasure, so the dialogue with your films works very well and on several levels, in the general sense, but also some details of framing and situations, water, night-time atmospheres, frames of mirrors, the woman invaded by hands …
The technical presentation of your films does not interfere in any way with the paintings, but the processes respond to each other. I think for example the way you have to let the characters spin in the blur as if the camera stopped on a focus and then let the character go away in its blur.
Munch’s cinematic vision is also very strong in the exhibition, and we come out with questions, sensations and a kind of renewed vision.

Conference Modern Sensibilities March 23-24


This conference was organized to discuss in more depth the underlying issues - philosophical, aesthetic, cultural-historical - that the exhibition is based on. Around the turn of the nineteenth century, the changes that had occurred in the social world of the half-century that separated Munch’s establishment as a modern artist from Flaubert’s modern novel Madame Bovary had led to a culture that explored sensations unsaid and unheard, unseen and un-understood outside of established religion, teaching, and government. Munch himself spoke of “the modern life of the soul” to describe his intense sensibilities that inspired but also hampered him in his quest for art that would be able to address those. Poul Erik Tøjner wondered if we should consider Munch “a conceptual artist of the senses” (2001: 43). Bringing thought and the senses together, this formulation offers a starting point for a discussion of the issues brought up in the exhibition Emma and Edvard Looking Sideways held at the Munch Museum from February 3 to April 28, 2017.


The seminar explores the consequences for art and literature and their study of modern sensibilities. In addition to the exhibition curator, Mieke Bal, it brings together scholars from a range of orientations and disciplines, who will present from different national and historical contexts their view of how this concept and its derivations help us to see Munch and Flaubert in a different light, relevant for today.


Participants:
Ernst van Alphen (NL)
Jonathan Culler (USA)
Miguel Ángel Hernández Navarro (SP)
Kristin Gjesdal (NO)
Griselda Pollock (UK)

See here for an explanation and interview

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